Willow Lobsterpots

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Willow lobsterpots

Peter Williams, an artist and historian from Amlwch, describes how he was taught the dying art of willow lobsterpot-making.

 “I acquired a boat when I was sixteen and of course my family, my Grandfather and my Dad and his brother, they were lobster fishermen, local lobster fishermen. They would sell their lobsters to hotels and of course, part of the, the industry was making your own lobsterpots.

They would go out with their, there was no cars in those days, so they would go out with their bikes and they would be trimming around the area wherever there was any peaty area, or boggy or rivers you’d always get willow and, of course, some of it was good stuff. And they would trim away, ooh maybe two to three weeks, until there was a huge pile and then they would, um, they would have a jig. It was made out of an old herring cask with holes in the top and that’s where you would start. You’d put your ribs in and then you would weave your neck and you’d have about seven different sizes of willow (thicknesses and lengths). The lengths of the ribs would be about eight feet long, quite, you know, ye, they were huge and lovely yearlings they’d called them. And, of course, the first job you had to, you were taught was to cut them and how to pack them and then the second one would be, you’d be given a sharp knife and you’ll have to trim the ends, so that when you were weaving you could, it made the job easier. You’d cut away the ends of the willow. You’d stack them in the various piles. You would have your, what they call, your firsts and then you’d have the neck willow (or throat willow) and then you’d have seconds. And then you would start on the actual weave then and you’d do one complete circle, tie it off and then you would add your thirds, which would be put in for every, every third willow, you’d stick an extra one in. And then it would be like a big mushroom, you know. And you would then proceed to do about three of these and as you get to half way you would take the pot off the jig then and set up another one. So one man was weaving, one man was trimming and the other one would be finishing, if you had all the men, you know.

It took me seven years to learn, you know and uh, when I started, mine were all kinds of shapes. But of course, like everything else you mastered it and you became very good at it. You’ve seen the one we’ve got in the sail-loft here in the Maritime museum, and that would be the size of a working pot. Different to the Cornish type of pot, this is based on a Scottish creel, sort of, they called them, which would be made all in one piece from the start to the finish, one whole piece, whereas the Cornish pot would be built like a parrot cage. Similar principle, set on a jig, and they would, you know, weave around and then they would weave the bottom separately. They would, same principle as making a basket really and then you would weave the ends of the ribs to the bottom. They were much prettier pot, if anything, the Cornish pots. I think they still use them in some parts, but, you know, to buy one now, for an exhibition, they’re very expensive. There is a chap, don’t know if he’s still alive, he’s about my age, now, he’d be about 70 odd and he was really good at it, ye, very good indeed.”